EPA moving forward with new pesticide regs

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with regulations that would protect farmworkers from pesticides.

"EPA is proposing to strengthen the protections provided to agricultural workers and handlers under the worker protection standard by improving elements of existing regulation, such as training, notification, communication materials, use of personal protective equipment and decontamination supplies," the agency writes in the Wednesday edition of the Federal Register.

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The EPA originally announced the safeguards for the nation's millions of agricultural workers in February, but it is moving the rule forward by posting it in the Federal Register and opening the comment period for 90 days.

This comes as government data show that between 10,000 and 20,000 workers suffer from pesticide poisoning each year, which can lead to hospital visits, sick days and lost wages.

The new standards would build on existing rules, in an effort to mitigate occupational pesticide exposure to protect people who handle agricultural protects that contain pesticides.

The proposal would establish mandatory annual training regulations for agricultural workers, as opposed to the current requirement for training once every years. 

The EPA also proposed additional requirements for posting "no entry" signs, buffer areas around treated fields and a rule that would prevent children under the age of 16 from handling pesticides.

These rules would revise the EPA's Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides, which haven't been updated for more than two decades.

Small family farms would be exempt.

“We can’t turn our backs on the people who feed the nation,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said last month when the agency published the draft rule. “They need to be protected.”

— Ben Goad contributed to this story.